Canada’s SNC-Lavalin on 7 August signed an engineering service contract and a licensing agreement with China's Third Qinshan Nuclear Power Company Limited (TQNPC) to implement 37M (NUE) fuel, a mixture of depleted and recycled uranium, at Qinshan's Candu 6 pressurised heavy water reactors - units 1 and 2. Candus are usually fuelled with natural uranium but since 2008, Canada and China have shown, using an in-core irradiation demonstration at the Qinshan Phase III Candu reactors, that NUE fuel can be used as a natural uranium substitute. SNC-Lavalin's work under the contract includes design definition, design verification, update of reactor nuclear design and safety case, regulatory support and licensing. The contract is valued at over CAD$12 million ($9.21m).
Sandy Taylor, President, Nuclear, SNC-Lavalin said the agreement “will see the 37M fuel technology put into commercial use outside of Canada for the first time and takes advantage of the ample supply of depleted and recycled uranium in China. He added that 37M technology is a step closer to closing the fuel cycle, and enables better use of alternate fuels in existing Candu reactors. “The two Qinshan reactors are already two of the best performing reactors in China and adding 37M NUE fuel further improves their ability to continue to deliver that high performance."
The development of 37M fuel in Ontario was a collaboration between Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the originator of the 37M design, and its Candu industry partners in the Candu Owners Group to perform important testing and technology development. OPG's subsidiary Canadian Nuclear Partners licensed the 37M design to SNC-Lavalin which facilitated collaboration and further development by SNC-Lavalin. The first-ever fuel bundle to test the use of recycled uranium from light water reactors was successfully demonstrated in Qinshan unit 1 in 2010. In March 2010, 12 NUE fuel bundles were inserted into the reactor, followed by a further 24 bundles in a trial that ran for one year.